OSU observing sexual assault awareness month

Survivor Advocacy and Resource Center

OSU observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month, promoting open dialogue

The National Institute of Justice found that about 1 in 5 women are victims of completed or attempted sexual assault while in college. The report also found that approximately 6.1 percent of males were victims of completed or attempted sexual assault during college.

Throughout the month of April Oregon State University is observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). “Prevention is Possible, Healing is Vital,” is OSU’s theme for SAAM this year.

“We wanted our theme to capture the focus on both prevention and need to support the healing of survivors,” said Whitney Archer, the senior assistant director at the Women’s Center.

Judy Neighbours, the assistant director of the OSU Survivor Advocacy and Resource Center(SARC) described SAAM as a time in which the community is made aware of the impact sexual violence has regarding survivors of sexual assault.

“We try to make people more aware of not only the prevalence of (sexual violence) on campus, but more importantly how by each of us knowing more about it, we can be more compassionate toward people who have experienced this,” Neighbours said. “It’s a means for survivors to step forward and have a voice, and for the community to step forward and provide support.”

During the course of the month, a variety of events will be held and open to the public. Events include Teal Tuesdays, Take Back the Night and Day of Healing.

For Teal Tuesdays, students are invited to wear Teal every Tuesday throughout the month of April in order to contribute to the message of SAAM.

Take Back The Night is an event where students can participate in an opening rally and a march of support around campus that ends with an open forum for whomever feels the need to speak out about their experiences regarding sexual assault.

Neighbours said this event allows those that have experienced sexual assault to symbolically “take back the night and their lives,” by participating in the event. According to Neighbours, a higher percentage of sexual assaults occur in the evening, so the timing of the event is meant to empower survivors and their supporters.

The Day of Healing is a collaborative event comprised of multiple activities happening throughout the school that focus on self-care that include yoga, mandala painting, guided meditation, a portable mind spa and more.

Bonnie Hemrick, a mental health promotion coordinator from CAPS said the goals of SAAM and the events are to heighten the awareness of sexual assault.

“We want people who may not necessarily be aware of sexual assault to become more aware of how they can prevent it on campus but we also want survivors to know that they are being supported and being listened to,” Hemrick said.

Neighbours said there are a lot of survivors on campus, both male and female. She continued by saying that the community needs to listen to and believe people about their experiences with sexual assault, and support them.

“I think within that, one of the goals is to stop some of the victim blaming. Instead of ‘what did you do wrong?’ we need more ‘what do we need to do to help you?’,”Neighbours said.

According to Neighbours, this is a chance for survivors to come out of their isolation, and step away from the secrecy that is associated with not wanting to talk about sexual violence, or thinking that it does not happen.

“In the long run, one of the things that has to happen to prevent violence is for us to stop turning away from seeing it, or knowing about, and actually doing something about it, or talking about it,” Neighbours said.

Neighbours said OSU is ahead of many other schools in terms of their compassion, sense of responsibility, helping survivors of sexual assault and their willingness to look at the problem of sexual violence head on.

“I’ve gone to a lot of other schools and I really will say that OSU is ahead of many schools in the nation and definitely in the state in terms of how we are taking responsibility for this and wanting to make sure that people who’ve experienced this are treated fairly and compassionately,” Neighbours said. “And that starts from students and organizations on campus all the way up to President Ray.”

Resources on campus for people seeking help includes the Survivor Advocacy Resource Center, CAPS, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, Sexual Assault Support Services, and the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Alliance.

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